CHICAGO (CN) - Chicago police retaliated against two officers who helped the FBI investigate police misconduct, warning them they risked "coming home in a box because the team won't help you on the street," the officers claim in Federal Court.
Shannon Spalding and Daniel Echeverria sued Chicago, its Police Chief Juan Rivera, Deputy Chief Debra Kirby and 10 other officers, including commanders and lieutenants.
Spalding and Echeverria say they both have exemplary records and have received numerous commendations.
"In 2006, while working an undercover narcotics investigation, plaintiffs uncovered evidence of illegal activity being committed by various Chicago police officers.
"One of those officers was Sergeant Ronald Watts, who they had witnessed robbing drug couriers and manufacturing a case against at least one confidential informant," the complaint states.
"Plaintiffs notified their superior Sergeant Roderick Watson of the criminal conduct in accordance with their duty to do so as found in their General Orders. Sergeant Watson told plaintiffs that 'we're not going to go there.'
"No one at the Chicago Police Department opened an investigation of Sergeant Watts or others pursuant to plaintiffs' notification," the officers say.
Neither Watts nor Watson are parties to the complaint.
Spalding and Echeverria say that when Chicago Police refused to investigate Watts, they contacted the FBI.
"Plaintiffs were recruited jointly to work on Operation 'Brass Tax' related to Watts and other Chicago police officers. They were immediately detailed to 'Detached Services,' Unit 543, and began reporting to F.B.I. headquarters.
"Plaintiffs were told at the August 2008 meeting that they could expect to be promoted to sergeant at the conclusion of their involvement in the investigation.
"Chief Kirby knew of plaintiffs' involvement in Operation Brass Tax and the assurances made to them by August 2008," the complaint states.
Spalding and Echeverria say they expected that the FBI would keep their identities confidential, but that in August 2010, defendant Commanders James O'Grady and Nicholas Roti attended a meeting where their activity was discussed.
"It was at that meeting where Commander O'Grady and Commander Roti first voiced that they would not allow plaintiffs to work in any unit under them.
"In August 2010, [defendant] Sergeant [James] Padar informed plaintiffs in the presence of another witness that O'Grady stated to him 'you are not to work with those IAD [Internal Affairs Division] rats, you are not to assist them and they are not to get any overtime,'" according to the complaint.
Kirby denied knowing about the officers' involvement in the Watts investigation, and Chief Rivera "told plaintiffs that [Deputy Chief Ernie] 'Brown told everyone,' including O'Grady, and they should expect to be on the 'receiving end' of severe retaliation," according to the complaint.
Brown is not a party to the complaint.
Spalding and Echeverria say they were removed from their unit in May 2011 and sent to work at the police academy.
They claim that "between May 5, 2011 and the end of July 2011, plaintiffs were required to report daily to the police academy and spent much of the time in a small room without phones or radios and were effectively on 'house arrest.' This again was in retaliation for having investigated fellow officers."
This year, Spalding and Echevarria say, they were detailed to "fugitive apprehension" under defendant Sgt. Maurice Barnes' supervision, and assigned to "low dead-end assignments at Unit 606, such as locating unknown turnstile jumpers or individuals that had been intoxicated on the public way."
They say Barnes told them they had been reassigned because "it's a safety issue" and "'I don't want to tell your daughter you're coming home in a box because the team won't help you on the street.'"
Other unnamed Internal Affairs officers told them that "sometimes you have to turn a blind eye" to misconduct, according to the complaint.
Spalding and Echevarria say they repeatedly asked Chief Rivera to investigate the retaliation against them, but he told them, "'Look, everyone is against you, so you don't want to piss me off.'"
In February this year, "the United States Attorney indicted Sergeant Watts and Officer Kallat Mohammed pursuant to plaintiffs' work on Operation Brass Tax," according to the complaint.
A few months later, Spalding and Echevarria say, "two other officers on the U.S. Marshall's Task Force of less seniority but who, upon information and belief, had not worked in IAD or investigated other police officers, were deputized."
They seek exemplary damages for conspiracy, retaliation, Illinois whistleblower protections, and constitutional violations.
They are represented by Patrick Walsh, with Elliot Zinger & Associates.